Bush in the Rearview Mirror

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, October 20, 2008; 1:21 PM

It's hard at this point to look ahead to the presidential election and its aftermath without looking back at the wreckage. And so, in the continued avalanche of newspaper endorsements of Democrat Barack Obama, a successful presidency is frequently being defined as the precise opposite of the current one.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board writes: "After eight years of George W. Bush, America needs a change in direction and a change in tone.

"It needs a president who understands that, yes, the world can be dangerous, but it is also complex. That the United States cannot defend its freedom by abandoning its principles. That it cannot ignore its allies one day and demand their help the next.

"It needs a president who knows that optimism, not fear, defines America. That tax cuts and deregulation alone are not an economic strategy. That Washington cannot sit idle when a great city is devastated by nature or when millions of hardworking Americans are devastated by losing their homes, their jobs, their health care.

"It needs a president who will listen and learn, and not confuse loyalty with competence. Who will ask Americans to sacrifice in the service of their country, not their party or self-interest. Who will be the leader Bush promised eight years ago -- a unifier, not a divider."

The Los Angeles Times editorial board writes: "The U.S. Constitution, more than two centuries old, now offers the world one of its more mature and certainly most stable governments, but our political culture is still struggling to shake off a brash and unseemly adolescence. In George W. Bush, the executive branch turned its back on an adult role in the nation and the world and retreated into self-absorbed unilateralism."

In many of these endorsements, Republican John McCain's allegiance to core Bush principles is seen as disqualifying.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board writes: "In the past eight years, the policies and ideologies that have animated the Bush administration have proved disastrous in almost every field of endeavor, from foreign policy to economics to relatively straightforward tasks such as responding to natural disasters. . . .

"McCain has yet to explain how most of his proposed policies and approaches differ from those of the current president. From deregulation of Wall Street and tax cuts that favor the richest 5 percent of Americans to a more aggressive foreign policy, McCain's approach now reflects the same Republican orthodoxy that has governed this country since 2000. Time and again, he has been offered chances to explain how his philosophy differs from that of the current president, and he has not been able to do so.

"And it's not just a matter of policies. A third term under another Republican president would inevitably be populated by much the same cast of GOP staffers, executives and bureaucrats that has run Washington for so long and with such disastrous results."

The Palm Beach Post editorial board writes: "During Wednesday night's final presidential debate, John McCain said to Barack Obama: 'I am not President Bush.' It was one last failed attempt to convince enough voters that a McCain administration would be much different from the Bush administration. . . .

"In June 2005, Sen. McCain said on Meet the Press that 'on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I've been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.' Indeed, Sen. McCain advocated the invasion of Iraq just weeks after 9/11. After opposing the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts on the principled grounds that they would give too much to the wealthy and too little to most Americans, Sen. McCain has made extending those tax cuts the centerpiece of his ideological economic policy. Based on his own words, Sen. McCain would appoint the same anti-consumer Supreme Court justices Mr. Bush chose. Based on his own actions, Sen. McCain favors the Bush-style, hands-off attitude toward financial companies that contributed to the current crisis."

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